50 Years of Plant Pathology

N. V. Hardwick, Central Science Laboratory, Sand Hutton, York YO41 1LZ, UK


1982 saw publication of the first issue of Plant Pathology edited by BSPP, completely redesigned and fully international in scope. Its first Senior Editor was Bryan Wheeler (Anonymous, 1991), Reader in Plant Pathology at Imperial College, University of London. In his editorial preface Wheeler (1982) set out the aims and objectives of the 'new' journal. The journal would publish research papers and critical reviews on all aspects of our science and from any country. Scripts would be subjected to peer review and a 10 strong Editorial Board was created, including Marion Gratwick and David Ebbels from the MAFF days, also with a Deputy Editor (Peter Scott of the Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge). An Advisory Board of 23 distinguished scientists was established encompassing 15 countries to provide its international credentials (The Advisory Board was disbanded in 1992, together with the post of Deputy Editor, with many becoming members of the Editorial Board. In 1999, there were 40 members of the Editorial Board from eight countries).

Some continuity was retained with the original journal, including the numbering of volumes and publication of short reports on 'New or unusual records' of plant diseases. Also, but only for three years, papers would be accepted on pests from the UK and the Republic of Ireland. However, publication of weather records was dropped. Publication of 'New or unusual records' ceased in 1994 with Volume 43 Number 6. This was largely because no one could be found to pick up the editorial work following Brian Sutton's and Roger Cook's stepping down as editors of this section. Because of popular demand for a vehicle for publication of such records BSPP established in 2000 a new Web-based publication, New Disease Reports; edited by Claire Sansford of the Central Science Laboratory, York.

It was fitting that the first issue edited by BSPP should be prefaced by a personal reflection by P H Gregory on E C Large and the previous 30-year history of the journal (Gregory, 1982). Gregory highlighted the achievements of Large in developing methods of measuring diseases and assessing crop losses and also in establishing the value of surveys in providing data on identifying which diseases are worth controlling and how to forecast their occurrence and development.

The journal flourished from its new start in 1982. As a result, BSPP became financially secure so that during 1986, under the five-year clause in its agreement with Blackwells, negotiations took place concerning purchase of the journal by BSPP. These led to agreement that half the market value of the journal was 20,000 and on 1 January 1987 the ownership of the journal passed into the hands of the now well established Society for this amount. Blackwell Scientific Publications (later Blackwell Science) would continue to publish the journal for an agreed period. It was fitting that the negotiations for the purchase were undertaken in Bryan Wheeler's Presidential year and with Peter Scott as Senior Editor.

A further change in the management of the journal occurred in 1987 when it was decided to pay the Senior Editor an honorarium in compensation for the work involved with an increasingly popular journal and the reluctance of employers to shoulder the burden of these extramural activities. The Senior Editor could no longer be an Officer of the Society, as under charity laws officers could not benefit financially from their position. An Extra-ordinary General meeting was convened at the University of East Anglia to agree the necessary changes to the Society's constitution. The Senior Editor is now an appointment of the Board of the Society and it continues to be for a five-year term.

The journal remained relatively unchanged in format until 1998 when the opportunity arose for a change of cover design to promote the 7th International Congress of Plant Pathology held in Edinburgh and organised by BSPP. With a change in cover came a change in format from the 'small format' (248 x 172 mm) to sub-A4 (276 x 210 mm). Following the commemorative Congress volume a new cover design was instituted which, while retaining the traditional overall blue effect, included a striking photograph from one of the papers included in that issue or from other sources (Fig. 1). In the original 'small format' there were just under 400 pages in 1982, with four issues. It expanded to more than 600 pages by 1985 and to 650 by 1991, and was changed to six issues per year in 1992, with almost 800 pages. It reached a maximum of more than 1100 pages in the small format. The sub-A4 format converted from 1100 to an estimated 804 pages. In 1998 there were 810 pages and 850 in 1999. Thus Plant Pathology has shown a gradual increase in volume to threefold its original size, indicating its increasing popularity as a vehicle for publication.

Under the editorship of BSPP the style and content of the journal have moved from one of practical national relevance to a journal of international significance with over 70% of papers originating from overseas. Its subject area is still mainstream plant pathology but, while it has gained a reputation for publishing quality scientific investigations, it has lost some of the intimacy it had with recording the solving of immediate problems facing the agricultural and horticultural industries. This is a sadness for some. The change from practical field-based towards more laboratory-based work can be traced through papers such as those describing ELISA for the diagnosis of spiroplasmas (Eden-Green, 1982: Archer et al., 1982), also the gradual introduction of newer diagnostic tests, such as monoclonal antibodies and molecular genetic techniques (Baulcombe et al., 1984). Genetic transformation of DNA (Madhosingh & Orr, 1985), cloning of genes (Rosner, et al., 1986) and the increasing use of molecular techniques for pathogen population studies and diagnostic techniques were reported early in their development (e.g. Priestley et al., 1992). Pathogen population studies in relation to wild hosts have also featured (Burdon & Jarosz, 1992). In the 1980s there were several papers recording the development of fungicide resistance in plant pathogens when it first became an important problem (e.g. King & Griffin, 1985; Locke & Fletcher, 1988). Throughout the life of the journal the epidemiology of plant diseases has been prominent, and this has become more mathematical and model-based (e.g. Jeger, 1983) and 'chaotic' (Shaw, 1994). Also the influence of plant structure on disease development is of increasing consideration to epidemiologists (e.g. Lovell et al., 1997) and not forgetting the dispersal of plant pathogens, particularly by rain splash (Walklate, 1989, Walklate et al., 1989). A link with the 'old' journal was the publication of computer mapping of beet cyst nematode and this also provided an early example of the use of geographic information systems (GIS) (Whiteway et al., 1982). Field mycologically-based papers were also included, a good example being a paper on Armillaria which altered the thinking on the ubiquitous A. mellea (Rishbeth, 1982).

In honour of Denis Garrett (Anonymous, 1984), one of the giants of British and, indeed, international plant pathology, issue Number 4 of Volume 30 was dedicated to him on the occasion of his 80th birthday (Scott, 1986). Following his death in 1989 (Anonymous, 1990) the Society instituted the Garrett Lecture (Hardwick, 1993). This was to be given each year by a distinguished overseas plant pathologist. The first lecture was delivered by Dr Jim Cook of Washington State University and published in Plant Pathology (Cook, 1994). The journal also published letters to the Editor (e.g. Sheffer, 1982), reviews (e.g. Harrison, 1988), book reviews (e.g. Bailey, 1982), Addresses of the Presidents of BSPP (e.g. Wood, 1984), short biographies of the Society's new Honorary Members (e.g. Anonymous, 1984) and the occasional obituary (Anonymous, 1990).

And the next 50 years? Who can tell. Publishing will change. Starting from about 1988 authors were asked to submit copies of their papers on floppy disks as well as hard copies. By 1995, the change was virtually complete and all papers are now submitted on disk as well as hard copy. Since 1997, Plant Pathology became available 'on-line', as are its relatives, New Disease Reports and Molecular Plant Pathology, with hard copy available for those who still like to smell, feel and read the printed page. While there are scientists with a thirst for knowledge of their environment and the interaction between diseases of plants and their causes there will be a need for a vehicle to communicate those ideas. What better place than in a journal with the unique title of that science - Plant Pathology?

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